Not long ago, a friend recommended that I check out the work of Italian philosopher Maurizio Ferraris, so I promptly ordered his book Manifesto of New Realism via interlibrary loan. Overall it is a valiant attempt to dig out of the hole of postmodernism – valuable, at the very least, for those who have fallen into that particular hole in the first place. Ferraris identifies one aspect of the constraints I talked about recently, in the form of what he calls “unamendability” (i.e., the fact that some aspects of reality cannot be changed by human wishes and ideas). On page 35 of the English translation, he writes:
As I said, I propose we define this fundamental character of reality’s “unamendability”: the fact that what we face cannot be corrected or changed by the mere use of conceptual schemes, unlike what happens in the hypothesis of constructivism. This, however, is not only a limit, it is also a resource. Unamendability, in fact, informs us about the existence of an external world, not in relation to our body (which is part of the external world) but in relation to our minds and more specifically with respect to the conceptual schemes with which we try to explain and interpret the world.
I’d like to draw attention to his astounding claim that one’s body is part of the external world! This implies that there exists an internal world consisting only of a thing called mind. To believe this is to commit the fallacy of reification: treating an abstraction (in this case certain activities of human beings, for instance speech, understanding, and concept-formation) as an independently existing entity (in this case “the mind”). It’s surprising to me that an otherwise quite sophisticated thinker could accept the conceptual crudities of this kind of mental idealism, but so it seems to be.